I think I’ve made gumbo once before, but because roux was a mystery to me, I found a “ready-made” roux in a jar at the grocery store. The jar had a thick layer of oil on top of reddish-brown sludge, and I really don’t remember if the gumbo was any good or not. The rest of the jar sat around for years before I finally threw it out in a move.
It’s time to tackle gumbo again, if for no other reason than this: I have too much junk in my freezer. So it’s going to be a duck gumbo. Why duck? Well, because I have a bunch of duck breast meat in my freezer, from the time my friend’s husband gave me two ducks to butcher. I did a lousy job of butchering those two quackers, but the breasts should be tasty, even if they don’t look pretty.
Gumbo is a dish steeped in tradition, with as many varieties as there are cooks who make it. One Internet posting I found claimed that “It’s not gumbo without okra.” However, an old friend of mine, Pableaux Johnson, gives up his turkey bone gumbo recipe as the perfect solution to your post-Thanksgiving leftover conundrum, and that recipe has nary an okra. And since I’ve seen Pableaux reign supreme over 5 different kinds of gumbo at once (wow, THAT was a party), I think the man is an authority. I believe he’s made over 30 batches this year alone.
I don’t mind an okra, especially fried. And I’ll eat it in a gumbo, but I don’t happen to have any okra in the freezer. So I’m gonna do without. I’m also going to commit heresy by doing away with one of the members of the “holy trinity” – that time-honored mix of bell pepper, onion and carrot – because bell peppers give me insane indigestion. So my holy trinity is in the style of the French mirepoix – onion, carrot and celery. So with my fridge and freezer findings, here we go.
Different recipes said to heat an equal amount of fat and flour over medium-low heat in a cast-iron pot until “chocolate brown” – about 25 minutes. I was so petrified of burning my roux that I kept the heat more on the low side… and over an hour and half later my roux was still only peanut-buttery-brown. Exhausted and bored, I kept twitching the heat a bit higher, and higher. Luckily I had already chopped all my veggies and sliced my smoked kielbasa. I pan-sauteed my duck meat, seasoning it with thyme, garlic powder and a bit of salt and pepper. I sliced the duck into thin slices, and set it aside. As the roux got a bit more reddish, I finally cried uncle and added the mirepoix. I gave that about 4 minutes to soften, then added the kielbasa, then the broth. Taking a cue from an Emeril gumbo recipe, I had added a stout beer to the broth – he recommended Abita Turbo Dog, but I had a Guinness, so I used that. The Guinness-infused broth smelled fantastic and foamed just like Guinness in a glass. After about an hour of simmering, I added the duck meat, and simmered a bit more… And then cooled it, and tucked it into the fridge.
The next day, it was time for the taste test. I decided that it needed a bit more flavor, so I added oregano, cayenne, cajun spices, dried parsley, and plenty of garlic powder. With another simmer, the flavors melded well and yum! Served over rice, the smoky, spicy mix was rich and delicious.